Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The what-if diaries of Missus Alpha Missra

February 14, 2000- Happy Balentines Day! Sigh. The reason why I was completely bowled over by Rossan was when he made a portrait of me by spitting chewed up tobacco on the wall of our Fluid Mechanics lab. He’d chew and then spit, chew and spit, c&s, c&s (sitting at a distance of six feet on a rocking chair)- till he created that masterpiece which I believe has become a holy spot for lovers from all over. Ross has actually changed a lot since marriage. He’s not as romantic anymore. No flowers, no greeting cards, no portraits, no nothing. I think this is due to the lack of boring moments such as the Soil Mechanics class here in the village. Not a dull moment here. When I am not watching the grass grow, I’m making babies.

April 20, 2000- I thought I should keep a diary just to document my life here in Goriteragaon, Bihar. It also gives me an opportunity to keep in touch with English and mainly keep track of my kid’s names- Manipozhi, Thalaiarazan, Kodaiazhaghi, Manmathakunju and the last one is Maangaoorga…(yeah, I protested against Bihari names and I prevailed. Made sure there is no ‘v’ in the names so that they won’t have trouble pronouncing them. A name like Vamsh in Bihar could be easily mispronounced as Bums).

Regarding keeping in touch with English, I guess it’ll come in handy when we take that vacation with the kids to Patna next month. I still remember when I set my foot in this house and Ross introduced me to his parents. He told them that I was a Trasportation Engineer and that I would make roads in Bihar as soft as Hema Malini’s cheeks. “Teeransportassan? U ka hai babuwa? Bahu sadak banayegi? Humri naak katwani hai ka!“ (Daughter –in-law will make roads? And cut our noses?)

Hema Malini’s cheeks do not have truck traffic on them, I protested quite worried about the high standard that was being set. But that was the last time I heard of Transportation Engineering.

May 3, 2000- I should continue to nag Ross to stop eating paan. It causes stains on his shirts and the amount of Surf I use is causing my monthly Hashish/Ganja budget to dwindle. On my insistence he stopped whistling at other women or having sudden urges to draw portraits of them. One step at a time.

I will never forget the wedding reception when everyone danced to “Khaike Paan Banaras Wala” and I jumped on the dance floor too only to realize everyone else stopped doing what they were doing and started staring at me. Must learn to keep emotions under control here. Seems like people get scandalized easily. And somehow my mother-in-law being pregnant for the 20th time hasn’t shocked a single soul. Strange! By the time I have all the names of his family members down, 7 more are born.

May 15, 2000- My parents tell me that my US cousin gets up at 5 am, goes running for some 2 kms, washes her car, cleans her own bathroom and cooks food in the evening. That’s too much work. Udders are easy to clean than undercarriages of cars. Oh, I forgot to tell you- I got a buffalo for my birthday that I named Anti. The in-laws thought I would get excited and jump up and down at the sight of Anti, but I was very indifferent. I would have preferred a cow.

August 22, 2001- My brother-in-law just got abducted and got forced into some marriage (looks like the parents of the women will do anything to procure slightly educated guys- or guys with educated sister-in-laws) . Wait till the abductors find out BIL is gay. In-laws bummed about dowry situation. Even in my case, my dad refused to give them the Kinetic Honda or the old Onida TV. So they are cursing their fate and I have a feeling that grandma-in-law is probably going to get a heart attack any moment. Ok, need to go and access situation and be ready to wail loudly if deemed.

May 30, 2006- I long ago no riting. So much hapening Goriteragaon. Anti die. Little cry. Happily new cow buying and name of cow giving - Anti. I is loving cow. But died buffalo getting up from died and becoming live. Socking and screaming. Not good I tell. Not good for two animals keeping name Anti. So I giving new name for old buffalo- Buffalo formerly known as Anti. As a Tam Bihari would say- Udderly kilebbur!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A love story that started with La loo (French for toilet)

Some years ago in college, Building Drawing class-

Professor: What is this I say, why is there no toilet in your house plan, eh?

Student: Sasura pagla gaye ho ka? Oo ka hai ki humra Bihar ma, khetwa hi humra sandas hovat. Ab ismein hamri ka galti hai? (In Bihar, we use the fields)

I laughed and looked back. That is when I noticed Roshan Mishra. He blushed, the color of his face fighting to dominate the color of his paan stained teeth. Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame is rumored to have been modeled after our Rossan Missra. ‘Arey o Chamakchalo! Coming to home?’ he called out to me.

I turned around quick and didn’t dare to look back.

But the romance had blossomed even before the seed of the fateful apple tree was sown. I was duly sent flowers to my hostel signed- I love you.- Roshan Mishra.

Ewwww! (Every successful romance starts with utter disgust, said a wise man, who obviously didn't account for Roshan Mishra or hungover Cupid)

Then I got a greeting card which I regret not preserving for posterity. It said something like- I love you. You looking very cueit in the pink dress. Ware today.- Roshan (I am VP frend)

Yikes! He’s getting all cozy now and he also threatened me with the VP link. Rabri devi, ma, meri raksha karo! (Save me!) Why do I have to look so cute to Biharis in particular? Why does my laughter have to have that Jhumritalaiya ring to it? Bhy, I mean why? I need therapy now!

Pink salwar-kameez was pushed to the bottom-most part of my shelf with a hazardous warning scribbled all over it.

But he had full faith in his charms and my weak melting heart. Next thing I know, I got a gift. A framed pencil sketch of something that was supposedly me. I have to admit, it wasn’t as bad as his building plans. It was in fact, way-off-the-charts better than me.

My friends were moved to tears. They urged me to consider going with him to the land of Laloo and help propagating the Mishra family in hopes of increasing the literacy rate in Bihar by a whole percentage (I do realize that is a lot of kids). My so called friends also called me ruthless and bought me ‘Unlearn English in 30 days’ so that Ross and I wouldn’t have comoonicassan (rhymes with Kamal Hassan) problems.

Somehow, heartlessly so, I didn’t choose the life that would have fetched me fresh warm buffalo milk on daily basis, but I did read the book (which explains my English today). In Ross’s honor, I have taken to backpacking because when I stay in tents, I have to go out to answer nature’s calls. Just like in Bihar.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

For my niece

I am the aunt. Let there be no doubt or rolling of eyes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Strange Strangers

I must be mad. I spent a fortune buying gifts for a whole bunch of strangers. No, they are not poor or homeless (God forbid); they aren’t even expecting gifts. Forget thanking me for this gesture, they won’t even acknowledge it. But I still have to give them something that they will not cherish and will not remember me by. As years go by, strangely enough, my gift will probably be passed on to some other stranger.

‘Cooochie cooochie! Look what aunty Alpha got you. A bouncing .. ermm… flashing...what the heck is this called?’ I ask, as the baby looks at me like one would look at something completely nondescript as a milk bottle.

The mom knows exactly what it is and I see her eyes lighting with excitement at the sight of gift receipt. She thinks, ‘ She has no clue what babies need. Yes! I shall return that ugly thing and buy diapers instead.’

I must keep these parents happy as they are somehow connected to this stranger who has invaded their lives and has taken them away from me. This is my way of appeasing them, pledging my solidarity to this little drool machine while claiming their love back, even if it has to be for that minute when they say, ‘Awww, such a cute little dress. So thoughtful of you. You shouldn’t have.’

I look at them with soulful eyes that say, ‘You still like me, don’t you?’ To which they look at their bundle of crap filled diaper and go, ‘Googoo doll, you poopooed again! Little darling. Let me clean you up. Alpha, go wash your hands and just hold her legs like this.’

Priceless moments, these. Yet they will ask me, ‘Don’t you feel compelled to have one?’

Maternal instincts are getting extinct at an alarming rate. Actually the babies are cute and cuddly and very well deserve the little ducky booties on their tiny adorable feet. But seriously speaking, what’s the difference between this crapping baby and the random baby wailing in the Air India flight - the parents of course. They are the reason why crapping baby gets gifts from aunty Alpha. While I don't hold one baby against the other, deep inside I like the one in the flight, comepletely oblivious to my affection. At least that baby wasn't the cause of this rant.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Planes, cabs and elevators

Lately I discovered my ability to use time effectively when stranded in an airport for 5 hours.

1. I took the escalator up and down (maybe 10 times) till I got a call in my cell phone from Pi asking me not to come back and sit next to him. ‘Act as if you don’t know me.’ That’s easy considering I just found out he flunked in English while in 3rd grade. Makes me worry about the other things he has managed to keep away from me just to get married.

2. Went into a watch store and tried all the available watches on display. The fact that I left my own watch hanging there somewhere shouldn’t deter you from trying this. Along the same line, I tried all the creams in Body Shop till I passed out due to overpowering stench.

3. Next, I spent some time in the bathroom making sure the lipstick I smeared in Body Shop didn’t look like I kissed a leaking drainage pipe. Actually going to the loo almost made me miss a flight in Amsterdam once. Flash back- When my turn came to use the booth, there were probably dozen ladies waiting (cross-legged) for me to be done and get out soon. Doing part wasn’t hard. Getting out was coz I couldn’t find the freaking flush, try as hard as I may. In a 3X 3 space, I searched every potential hiding place. I did jumping jacks thinking there might be some motion activated sensor…but nothing at all. It just wouldn’t flush. I spent close to half hour in panic when I heard some rude knocks from people convinced that I decided to change my address to this loo. Finally I decided to brave the crowd and explain situation and forbid them from going inside. When I opened the door, I heard the flush behind me. Who the heck invents these things?!!!

4. I talked to random people hoping they are either dentists or tailors staying very close to me in Chicago so I can use their services. Most of the times they turn out to be people stressed out about the delay in flight. So they stress me out too.

We finally reached Chicago at midnight, stressed and tired. The last thing you want to deal with is an over-friendly cab driver with a Russian accent who feels he is required to make conversation to get paid.

Cabbie: Ho Ho Ho! (might be moonlighting for Santa Claus when it is December in these parts) Wherzzz arzz you comeen from? (that’s not the drinks, but thick accent) Izzz zoo colzz ouzzz heeya , wozz zooo zzooo? (It’s so cold out here, what to do?) Ho ho ho!

From now on, I will give you translated version (or whatever of it I gathered). The preview was for you to realize how irritating it was when all I heard was a buzz and heckling laughter at the end of every sentence, graciously sprinkled with ‘what to do’ and ‘you know’.

Pi: Pittsburgh. The weather was great there.

Cabbie: Why come back here? Stay there only. (Remember to add 'Ho ho ho' after every sentence and ‘What to do’)

Pi (polite laugh)

Cabbie: What do you do Miss, other than spend all his money?

Me: (his money? What the heck?!) Ahh, I nag him too.

Cabbie: Of course, of course. Must tell you joke about women, pardon me , what to do… (some MCP joke for which Pi laughed politely again)

Cabbie: Lizzzzin to this joke….(something about horse and George Bush)

Pi (polite laugh)

Cabbie: I am sorry. I should put music but I am bothering you with my chatter.

Me (music to my ears. I nod furiously. Yes! music music)

Cabbie: This joke was so funny, so funny that a bartender gave me free beer when I told him this (tells another joke about something only Pi understood as he laughed politely again.)

Me wondered if bar tender’s idea was to get him piss drunk so he could pass out on the floor quickly.

Me: O Cabbie, what about the music?

Cabbie: She didn’t understand my joke and hence couldn’t take the insult. Ho ho ho! I know you will ask your husband in the night to explain all the jokes and next time I meet you , maybe you will laugh.. ho ho ho! (Goes on to tell another joke)

I was quite mad by now. Pi was chilling out and laughing at the right moments. Must ask Pi if some cabbie had scarred him in childhood. Why was he feeling so obligated to humor him? Someone tell him that this guy is not his Father-in-Law.

Me: Ok, tell me some interesting jokes about your passengers. Oh, but you may not have any because you don’t even let them talk. Ho ho ho!

Cabbie (to Pi): She talks too much. How do you deal with her? She is saying I don’t let her talk. My God. What to do! You know women are like that only. My wife…(another joke)

I kept mum for the rest of the journey to preserve my sanity and conserve enough energy to get home and stagger to the bed.

Pi: That’s our building.

Cabbie (pulling over): Ok fine, I will trust you Mister. If she had said it, I would not have stopped here.

Pi pulled out some money for the cabbie as we got out.

In the elevator,

Me: Why did you have to give him such a huge tip? I have a freaking headache because of that nut.

Pi: I was impressed. He was the only one who could keep you quiet for sometime, insult you and not get slapped.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Never prepared to move on

I was looking for positive outcomes of our move to Pittsburgh and the only thing that comes to mind is how much I have began to love Chicago more than I have ever in the past. It will be difficult to let go of the place and more so the people who’ve become more than just friends. I usually never tend to hold on to people with the strongest tenacity just for this very reason. I think my childhood days of constantly moving from place to place has a lot to do with my ability to make friends easily and making sure I don’t get close enough because deep inside I know I’ll have to say goodbye. The fear of parting has always stopped me short from going the extra mile to get me that free ticket to eternal friendship haven. It has definitely kept me from wearing lockets that say ‘Friends Forever’.

Last time I sang ‘Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge’ with my friend Ruby, I was not only under age but also under the influence of Sulfur dioxide emitted from moving vehicles. Well of course, unlike Sholay, both of us continue to live in different parts of the world with no contact with each other. I do know she is a doctor and probably does come across patients who share my name. Maybe she thinks of me at the time and of the song we sang together.

She was a girl
Tall thin and fair
Her hair her hair
Was just the color of gin-nn-ger!!!

Epitome of female bonding is the above lines. Even today on the sidewalk of Michigan Avenue, I can be surrounded by girl friends standing in a single row holding waists and taking three steps forward, two steps backward while chanting this jargon and wondering why I am not even trying. Somehow, I am very inept at these things when sober. I stayed away from the likes of this while growing up… a centimeter away from this ‘poem’ is Plague followed by Bird-flu. Basically I think I am jealous as I can’t get the steps right and sincerely hope no one feels the need to teach me now. I had to email one of my girls to get a hold of the lyrics to this.

While girls in my school had little clans and named themselves BAD (that stood for Brinda, Anuradha and Deepa), I shuddered and winced at such a display of wanton camaraderie. Catch me dead wearing matching hair bands and Goofy tattoos (I really mean Goofy tattoos, not Mickey ones). I avoided going to the bathroom in girly groups in spite of them cajoling me to accompany them (To date I haven’t figured that one out). I hated the term ‘best friend’ and lost all my chances of getting a Singapore watch from Sheela who gave watches to her best friends only.

Sometimes I feel saddened to know that I am everybody’s friend and nobody’s real friend.

My college circle of 30 friends had at least 6 well meaning people who wouldn’t get along with each other at any given time. This I realized when I was pestered to take them all out to dinner on my birthday. I called everybody and gave them the venue and time.

‘By the way, will she be there?’
‘Please take me out for dinner some other time when she isn’t there.’

That was my roommate. I had similar requests from many others after which I just gave up and gave them dinner vouchers to go by themselves whenever suitable.

A sure shot way of getting close to someone is making their enemy yours. I never get that part right. If you are calling to bitch about someone you hate, there are huge possibilities that I might have gone to a movie with that person last night and I will admit it too. I may even advice you (unsolicited of course) and tell you what a wonderful person she actually is.

All of them are precious to me in their own way and yes, I am already fretting about leaving this city in October. I know I will miss them more than they would ever realize... coz I am not the kinds to let them know. I have experienced separation in the past, but I know this time it’ll be harder than last time just like it was last time around- harder than the previous. I do wonder what it would be like to wear Goofy tattoos and sing ‘Todenge dam magar, tera saath na chodenge’ and actually mean it. It might actually be liberating.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Get Rewards

Pi is a sucker to deals. Coupons and frequent flyer miles occupy a large part of his left-brain while his right brain scans the Internet for more. His outer brain keeps track of all the extra miles we would need to fly business class to somewhere in Idaho, while his inner brain keeps track of the time I forgot to use that ‘one dollar off’ coupon for a facial service. Oh, I had to take that spa appointment (against my wishes of course) so that we could use the coupon.

If the American consumer market can make a slave out of my hubby, maybe I can too. So I devised a similar system at home.

Dear Pi,

Exciting times ahead. Join the Alpha GOLD Club (Globally Opted Locally Devised). Free membership for this exclusive single member club (promotional one time offer). Easy redemption of points. Start collecting them now.

Bear hug when required- 5 points
Vacuuming the apartment- 10 points
Laundry- no points (that’s under the initial contract)
Grocery shopping- 15 points
Cleaning the bathroom- 20 points
Turning off the TV for 10 minutes- 25 points
Cooking a meal- 50 points
Not telling friends that I cried while watching a movie- 75 points
Not harassing me when I don’t use coupons- 100 points
Gazing at stars and going on walks together- 500 points

To redeem your Gold points, see catalogue below.

Upma- 100 points (for five bathroom cleanings, I think this is a deal)
Pongal – 500 points (I can see this product not selling)
Kesari bath- 1500 points (A die for! Maybe I ought to hire an advertising agency)
Apple Pie- 2000 points (Yum! Wait! What if ‘I’ want to eat this now? I have to wait for four moonlight walks... that’s a freaking lifetime!)
Ready meals- 5000 points (this is looking more like a Shanti Sagar menu)
Will change toilet paper roll when done- 5500 points (actually this is worth only 50 points.. but what the heck.. will make it look like torture)
Back rub- 10000 points (you think this might prompt the use of external services?)
Will not nag for a day- 20000 points (more realistic approach)
Will hang out with your geeky friends- 30000 points (it’s better to make sweeping generalizations)
Will use coupons and watch out for points during one shopping visit- 50000 points
Sex – er.. Priceless or 100000 points, whichever is lower. (Maybe this should not be included in this list or I’ll be the one starved)

Thanks for being a future loyal customer and helping us serve you better everyday. Terms and Conditions will be posted after we have translated it to Greek.


Still in Beta version. This list will be expanded. Will keep you posted if this breakthrough product helped in procuring me a slave or if it was trashed before reading.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Garbage Salad

When I longed to relive my childhood days, I wasn’t thinking of exams. I will never hope for such preposterous things again. Eight hours of squirming in the seat made me realize I have more patience than I thought I did. I fully expected to murder one of the proctors. I didn’t and I won’t discuss it further. It’s over, that’s all. Results will be out in four months and I fully expect you all to forget that I ever wrote an exam (seems like I never let you forget even if you want to). If I never bring up the topic again, please be prudent and never ask me what happened.

But weeks before the exam, I had already started dreaming of all the cool things I would be doing after. I will vehemently deny that my exam performance has anything to do with my daydreams that occupied more space in my mind than formulae. I had visions of the heavens bursting, the birds chirping my name and the world becoming a better place to live (read extra daytime minutes on my cell phone plan). You know something, nothing of that sort happened. This is worse than an anticlimax. The exam got over and I was like ‘Yay. Now what?’ You would think that all my friends whom I avoided on the studying pretext would form some kind of stampede to spend quality time with me. Nope. You would expect hubby to let me have all the money to go shop. Nope. You would expect my bathroom to self clean itself. No freaking way. I had to clean it myself.

I have been busier after the exam. Exam preparation served me with ample time to relax with my feet up and make excuses to do nothing but whine. It was actually wonderful. If my whole life were about preparing for non-existent exams, I would have postponed everything for the creature in my next birth. Now I am paying the price. All procrastinated things came back to haunt me at once. Need to meet new niece in DC, need to clean my ears so that I can wax my legs, need to cook, need to hatch plans on how to avoid cooking, need to get involved in professional societies for networking purposes (gag), need to buy clothes for new fatter me, need to find place for tighter clothes in hopes of using them soon, need to bike all around Chicago, need to repair bike, need to see if bike still exists, need to think if I actually own a bike, need to understand why I have a clock that shows Istanbul time, need to learn how to manage time and clocks.

So I am in the process of sorting life. Last time when I did that, I lost track of everything.